As demolition of the Windsor Raceway begins this week I’m reminded of all the good times I spent there over the years. My earliest memory of the place was the day my mom and dad took us to see it. I was about seven years old, and if I remember right, it was an open house affair, where we were all allowed to go out onto the racing surface. It felt like rubber, and was called something like the Tartan Track.
Windsor - June 6, 2015 - As demolition of the Windsor Raceway begins this week I’m reminded of all the good times I spent there over the years. My earliest memory of the place was the day my mom and dad took us to see it. I was about seven years old, and if I remember right, it was an open house affair, where we were all allowed to go out onto the racing surface. It felt like rubber, and was called something like the Tartan Track. It was revolutionary for the times, and made headlines across North America.
I didn’t care much about all the hoopla, I just wanted the souvenir keychain they were giving away. I probably still have it somewhere. In later years, my uncle Sam, who worked there selling programs, would pick up my brother and me, and along with our cousin Jeff we spent hours watching the races and eating the incredible ice cream cones they served at the concessions stands. In addition to the races, sometimes they had concerts, and Mom and Dad brought us there to see acts like the New Christy Minstrels, The Chantones, and Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
Fast forwarding to the mid eighties, my business partner at the time and I were hired to do the photography of the finish line and winner’s circle. There were many nights and weekends spent in the shooting platform, waiting for the horses to cross the finish line. Timing was everything, and if you shot too late, the flash had the potential to wipe out the judges view of a close race. And while it never actually happened, I do recall getting a call or two from a judge telling me, “That was a little too close for comfort”.
Over the years I shot there, my wife would occasionally surprise me by bringing the kids out. After the program was over, we took them to the backstretch so they could see the horses up close, and once in a while one of the trainers would let them feed them. The looks on their faces was priceless. (The kids - not the horses.)
I have a lot of great memories of my time at Windsor Raceway; some I can tell, and some I can’t. Here are a few of my favourites from the ones I can.
Working for John Ferguson, the late, great, Montreal Canadiens’ enforcer. Fergie was a great guy, and always treated us with respect. One night at the end of the season, he held a party for all of us, and it was a great time.
Riding the elevator with several of the Red Wings Alumni group. I was supposed to make sure they got back to the clubhouse. Before pushing the button for their floor I told them all, “Ok, we’re not going anywhere until all of you guys sign my program.” Laughs all around. And yes, they all signed my program.
One of ladies who worked there could never remember our names. If she wanted to call us over she would say “Yoo Hoo,” or “Hi There.” One night she called “Yoo Hoo!” I replied, “Yoo Hoo’s off tonight, I’m Hi There.”
The concessions girls had a running joke that they fed me more than my wife did. Since I was there three and maybe four nights a week, this was probably truer than I believed at the time.
Tom Joy. Like Fergie, Mr. Joy always had time to chat. And he had a good memory to boot. I introduced him to my dad once. Once. Years after I left the track, if they crossed paths, the first question Mr. Joy would ask my dad was “How’s Tim?” like Fergie, he was another great guy.
Today, as I stood there watching the machinery chew up what remains of the old gal, all the memories were right there in front of me. Memories that no one can take away. Good times. Fun times. Regrets? With apologies to Mr. Sinatra, too few to mention.
So it’s time to say adios. But not before I say so long to the people who made it a great place to work.
Farewell Mike, Sue, Donnie, Ken, Cathy, Derek, Frank, Marty, Bill, Dan, Marc, Joe, Bob, Brett, Char, Dianne, Beth, Terry, Jennifer, Phil, Joan, Ron, John, Mark, Dave, Barry, Vince, Graham, Donald, Sean, Amy…….and last but not least, Switchboard Kay, who never missed passing on a message.